A grand jury in Texas declined to indict a former McKinney police officer who was filmed confronting a group of black teenagers at a pool party last year. The officer, Eric Casebolt, who is white, pulled his gun on the unarmed teens and tackled a 15-year-old girl in a bikini to the ground. He is shown in the footage of the incident shoving her head down multiple times and putting his knee into her back as she calls out for her mom.
The video of the incident, which took place at a community pool in a Dallas suburb, is horrific. In a local news interview, the 15-year-old who filmed it, Brandon Brooks, said he was "scared that someone was going to get shot and possibly killed" when the 12 officers arrived, responding to complaints about the party from residents, who the teens said had harassed them. According to reports, the police were called after a fight broke out between a teen at the party and an unnamed adult white woman, who allegedly made racially charged comments. "Like, telling her to go back to section 8 housing," Brooks said.
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According to reports, when Casebolt arrived on the scene, he was immediately aggressive, unlike the other officers. Residents and Casebolt's lawyer, however, say that the officer was just doing his "duty to arrest for criminal trespassing," which certainly is a euphemistic characterization of Casebolt's forceful treatment of unarmed kids who weren't even wearing shoes.
Greg Conley, the McKinney police chief, called Casebolt's actions "indefensible." "He came to the call out of control," Conley said during a televised news conference after public outcry called for Casebolt to be fired. "I had 12 officers on the scene, and 11 of them performed according to their training." Casebolt was allowed to resign and, according to the Los Angeles Times, still gets to keep his pension.
That Casebolt could walk free, and collect a check, after explicitly disregarding protocol and using excessive force on minors is another frustrating example of the lack of accountability for police abuse. And sadly, this has come to be expected. The lawyer for Dajerria Becton, the 15-year-old girl who was wrestled to the ground, told Broadly in an email: "No indictment. No surprise. We currently live in a time in which the public servants who are hired to protect and serve are not required to uphold the very law they are sworn to enforce. The message is clear. Police are above the law. This must change."
The message is clear. Police are above the law. This must change.
Indeed, abusive policing against the communities that officers are supposed to serve and protect should not be the norm. Teenagers shouldn't be scared that their friends are going to die at a neighborhood pool party.
The executive director of the ACLU Texas, Terri Burke, underscored this point. "The grand jury's decision not to charge Eric Casebolt sends the message that police officers won't have to face real consequences when they endanger the lives of those they're sworn to protect, but it does not absolve the McKinney police department of its responsibility to train its officers in de-escalation, racial profiling, and use of force," Burke told Broadly in an email statement.
The McKinney police force appears to realize this, too. On Monday, they're holding a meeting with community leaders called, "Moving Forward: Strengthening Police and Community Relationships."
"The fact that McKinney chief Conley has organized a public forum next Monday to improve relations between his department and the communities it polices is an excellent first step, and we encourage him to enhance and expand such outreach efforts in the future," Burke said. "The McKinney police department has a real opportunity here to demonstrate what community policing in Texas is supposed to look like."
That same day, Becton plans to file a civil rights and personal injury lawsuit against Casebolt, according to her lawyer.